2019 vape crisis

Vermont Doctors Seeking To Limit THC Potency Statewide

Vermont Doctors Seeking To Limit THC Potency Statewide

The Vermont Medical Society asked the state Cannabis Control Board to set the cap on allowable THC potency at 15% for all cannabis products even though the state’s recreational cannabis market has not launched yet. 

Claiming concerns over consumer safety, they also want health warnings on all cannabis product packaging and advertisements. 

The Vermont Medical Society represents 2,400 doctors and physician assistants. 

Last year, the Vermont Department of Health issued a report stating that “marijuana use is a significant public health problem in Vermont, and it is getting worse.” 

In Vermont, medical marijuana products are not limited in potency. 

Vermont’s recreational market isn’t scheduled to launch until May 2022. Currently, the state is the only one that limits THC potency.

Flowers are capped at 30% THC and concentrates at 60% THC. Although 30% THC is somewhat high for marijuana flower, concentrates frequently reach 80%-90% potency. 

Marijuana opponents are increasingly attempting to slow the state-by-state legalization by reining in the industry with caps on THC potency.

Bills to limit THC potency were introduced in four state legislatures, Florida, Massachusetts, Montana, and Washington, according to MJBizDaily

In Colorado, a bill that would have capped THC potency for all marijuana products, both medical and recreational, at 15% was shelved because of industry and community backlash.

Florida’s HB 1455 passed a House committee on a party-line vote – all Republicans in favor, all Democrats against – and would cap THC limits for all marijuana flower at 10% and concentrates and other similar product types except edibles at 60% THC. Nonprofit Florida for Care is leading a campaign to kill both bills.

“This is an existential threat, not just to the industry but to the whole idea of medical marijuana in Florida,” Ben Pollara, Florida for Care adviser, said.

Massachusetts lawmakers confront two different bills, HD 2841 and SD 465. The first, HD 2841, would cap marijuana flower THC at 10% and vape cartridges to 5 mg per metered dose or cap potency at 10% THC. 

If SD 465 is adopted, the state Cannabis Control Commission would require “reasonable” potency limits. Defining “reasonable” leaves a lot of latitude in either direction.

Despite Montana lawmakers sending SB 342 “to Siberia,” the bill is technically not dead. The proposal would limit THC potency to 15% in all marijuana products except for medical marijuana. Estimates place the cost of implementing the bill at $1 million or more.

The Washington State Legislature missed a deadline for advancing HB 1463, which would have banned all concentrates with more than 30% THC. The bill is dead for now, but this is the second year in a row a Washington lawmaker has brought such a policy, and it will likely come up again.

Industry insiders fear that capping THC potency could become the first step toward a return to cannabis prohibition. A potential cap ban can lead to people not purchasing their favorite cannabis products stored in concentrate jars

Many of these proposals seek to cap THC strength below what’s currently available in most markets. If restricting THC potency leads to further cannabis prohibition, a new illicit market with high-potency cannabis would quickly rise. 

The Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project director of government relations, Chris Lindsey, is adamant that potency caps are a “terrible policy.”

“If we go down this road, if we start banning certain products, we get law enforcement back in the business of enforcing cannabis laws,” Lindsey said. “We’re just heading down the wrong path.”

The 2019 vape crisis is an example of how unregulated, illegal marijuana products create risk for consumers compared to legal, high-potency cannabis. 

Other, often Republican-led, efforts to affect change at the federal level have also had success by first changing state laws. Success with THC limits state-by-state could introduce the possibility of a federal THC potency regulation being included in future national legalization.

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders believes Congress is “making progress” toward legalizing marijuana and ending the “War on Drugs.”

Lowering the potency caps will likely push cannabis consumers and concentrate connoisseurs, in particular, to shop for in nearby recreational states that don’t yet have THC limits.

Vermont has the 3rd highest number of marijuana consumers per capita among all states where marijuana consumption is legal

“People who want those products, they probably will turn to out-of-state (options). They are now. We have so many people who go to Massachusetts or Maine to access products,” Bridget Conry, marketing and outreach director at Vermont’s Champlain Valley Dispensary, said.

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